WAINIYABIA Village is about an hour's drive from the capital city along the Queens highway. You don't have to look far to see this quaint settlement by the roadside in Serua.
According to the turaga ni yavusa Taukei Qamo, Ratu Romulo Rokubu, their ancestors came from Rewa and sought refuge in Qamo during the tribal war days.
Another descendant of the chiefly family, Roba Nayacalevu noted an interesting fact about the province.
"There are two Vunivalu ù one is the Taukei Korolevu, the Vunivalu of Serua and the other is the Vunivalu Taukei Qamo of my yavusa," he said.
"The reason why we have our own Vunivalu is because my ancestors were renowned warriors during tribal wars and the mountain Qamo was the old village site and a fort during this period.
"This is evidenced by the amount of land and natural resources that we own today as compared with the rest of the mataqali and yavusa in the province of Serua. Wainiyabia Village is of the yavusa Toluga, mataqali Nakauraki."
Our recent journey to the village's main tourist attraction, the Waisese waterfalls, was led by a guide group comprising the village's matanivanua Aloesio Setariki Raiwalui, guides Joseph Nayacalevu, Romulo Rokubu Jr, Rafaele Rokotuitai, Atonio Sova and Simione Tekivakatini ù in their own little way, the guides were very accommodating and helpful in sharing with us their rich history.
But when storytelling time begins, Setariki is the most impressive. For someone so young, the 24-year old has played the role of matanivanua since he was 12, every word, phrase, myth and legend about how their people, village and community came to be is firmly embedded in the mind of this fascinating young man.
At the end of our exuberating hike inland, we hopped into a small boat and began a tour down river. We neared a clearing in the mangroves and before us stood the 'shark fin'. Pointing to the natural landscape, Setariki began:
"That mountain is called Qamo. There was another one called Qamodro but it's not there today," he told us.
"They were two brothers who had the power to fly. One was Ratu Waisea Mataitini (levu) and the other was Ratu Lepani Drotini (levu). They represented the two mountains. They decided that whoever would bow their mountain first would claim the land, so Qamo bowed first and Qamodro had to leave.
"The brothers would take turns in bathing at the chiefly stone downriver ù Ratu Lepani would fly down from the mountain at night, while Ratu Waisea would come down to bath during the day.
"Such was the sau (power) of the two brothers that whenever they would have their bath, the fish in that area would instantly float lifelessly on the water. This was a sign that needed no explanation to the villagers ù they knew this meant their chief was at the bathing stone so no one was allowed to go near the place.
"When Ratu Waisea flies to the bathing stone, he would go to the irara (a nearby ground with a fireplace) to dry himself before flying back to Qamo.
"This irara was close to the koromakawa, at the foot of the mountain, a place called Nubuniikadamu.
"If he wanted to eat turtles, he would go to a place called Wainivuaka. Today, finding a turtle there is very rare ù but two years ago, a turtle was spotted in the same area.
"When it's Ratu Lepani's turn to bathe, he would leave a fiery trail on his flight to and from the mountain."
According to Setariki, their chiefs even had the power of the spoken word, in that if they wanted to eat from the sea or turtles from Wainivuaka, all they had to do was say the word and the fish would be found at the beach, likewise with the turtles from Wainivuaka.
"The villagers at the koromakawa would go down to fetch the fish from the beach for the chief," he says.
At the top of Qamo is a bamboo tree their ancestors used as their pillow. Setariki says the taboo area can only be accessed by people from the mataqali Nakauraki and no other.
"At the koromakawa, two tokatoka resided there ù Vatuba which was near the coast and Mataibeqa. One family from Korolevu also took shelter at Vatuba and they brought with them some people from Naivukuci, a family from Naiyarakura from the yavusa Burenitu," he said.
The people of Wainiyabia do not believe these stories are old wives' tales. So much so that one legend even talks about a taboo with women of the yavusa Korolevu.
"Ratu Waisea married a woman from Korolevu and took her to Qamo," Setariki continued.
"He carried her on his back and along the way asked her if she wanted to drink. They began comparing powers and Ratu Waisea told her, 'You'll see how powerful I am' so he took his lawedua (hair stick) from his head and struck a rock on Qamo.
"At that instant, spring water came gushing out. His wife, instead of getting off his back to drink from the spring, climbed over his head and had her fill."
To do that to a chief or Vunivalu was a big no-no and because of this, the chief told his wife she wouldn't survive when they reached the top. Such were his words that when they completed their journey, his wife died.
"From that day on, the mataqali Nakauraki has lived by the rule that no man from the mataqali should marry a woman from Nakauraki.
"If a man breaks this rule and marries anyway, his wife will not be able to bear a child until her death."
Vunivalu Ratu Rokubu added on with his own history saying his great, grandfather married a woman from Korolevu but they didn't have any children until she died. His ancestor remarried and was able to have children. Meanwhile, guide Joseph Nayacalevu gave his two cents worth to their village history saying many river detours in the area were dug by their ancestors during the tribal wars as a way to confuse their enemies.
The old practices included unspoken actions and words for events in the mataqali. Like the death of a member of the chiefly family. Setariki says if this happens, there was no need to send someone to pass on word to their people up river.
"When a member of the chiefly family dies, a manumanu vuka (flying bird) cries on the mountain. At the same time, up river at a place called Naimasimasi, people would only hear a big splash at Nairikarikaniyalo to learn of the death. They would instantly make their way to the chiefly village to find out what preparations are needed and what they would offer."
Like their forefathers, the people of Wainiyabia are forever proud of culture and heritage.
* Next week: Wainiyabia as it is today.